Death of the Great Man
The answer, when the microphones were pushed into our faces was; "I can't talk about it, now."
We had rehearsed this response. From the moment we heard he was dead, we, his 'loyal' staff called a meeting We had to meet, we had to vent, and we had to formulate a reaction that would insulate us.
Insulate us from the truth, and the repercussions of the truth
Working for Him
The First moment;
I had entered 'Headquarters' , as the office was called, and was overwhelmed by the photographs and newspaper cuttings which covered the walls. Every one of them spotlighted The Great Man.
I should have run out of the building and taken a job packing shelves at a supermarket. But I didn't. I thought, (maybe it was that I wanted to believe), that the items were placed by a proud staff. Not by the Great Man himself.
A few weeks later, Forge the Geek came to upgrade the computers at Headquarters, looked around the rooms, saw all the awards and photos, and newspaper clippings, and said softly, "This is one sick puppy."
"You don't know the half," I had whispered.
If I had been willing to be honest. If I was willing to find another job. If I could have found another job...I wouldn't be there.
But I hadn't been looking, and although I truly didn't want to be here, it always
seemed that just when I had enough, The Great Man would go away for a few days, and the office, the Headquarters, would be a normal place to work.
To See Ourselves As Others...
The Great Man held himself up as a Liberator, a brilliant mind, sensitive to the plight of 'His People.' That is, those 'People' who didn't work with him.
To those who worked for him: He gave no benefits. He was so cheap, so micro-
managing, so annoying, and insulting, that if he wasn't The Great Man, someone
would have shoved a pen in his throat.
The ancillary staff, the messengers, helpers and handymen left after a few months. The young and ambitious spent a week. The man was a slave master; we weren't his staff but his wage slaves.
When reporters were around he was smiling and kind, and ever so flattering. But on an average day, walking into that building sent a thrill of nausea through our bodies, and we knew what awaited us.
We didn't want to know, we tried to pretend things were fine. But we knew that he would ignore us all day, passing with his eyes defocused as if we didn't exist.
Until near quitting time.
Near quitting time, when we were about to leave him to the desert of his life, a life without acolytes, he'd demand our time.
Sometimes he'd pull up a chair, sitting near us, the smell of him ..the smell of rancid sweat, stifling, for he needed to read the document on our computer screen, because he didn't want to waste paper.
He needed to imprison us at our stations, force us to go over a document word by word to find faults.
If we tried to explain or say; " I have that in the next paragraph.." he'd become enraged. "Too much Talking!" He'd bleat.
He hated to hear us speak. He knew everything, you see. Our opinions were worthless. We were worthless. He was the only being worthy to live.
He loved making us work late.
The receptionist, knowing his proclivities would set appointments for him after four. This meant he'd be broading off in his office, door closed, and we'd be able to escape.
At least most of us, for somehow he'd capture one of us and start a litany of faults or demand something be done now. Especially something that was neither urgent, nor important. Because he had to show his power.
Those pictures on the wall, those photographs and newspaper clippings weren't just the manifestation of his ego, they were necessary to dispel his deep well of inferiority.
He was inferior. He was the least sensitive, least compassionate, meanest man I'd ever met.
When his secretary needed to leave because her child had taken sick at school, he kicked up such a fuss, we stood and gaped. She sat, tears streaming down her face, shocked.
Then, when he'd walked away, she left. He never said anything about the incident.
This was the kind of person he was.
We heard about his death over the radio. We called each other, and met at a 'secret' location.
With the door closed we said what we had whispered. We dug it all out of our souls
and flung it around as mad people tossing feces.
Then we appreciated that as the country thought he was a Great Man we would discredit ourselves by telling the truth. Hence, we should say nothing.
We should clean up the office, see what the family and the organisations to which he belonged decided, and act as if we were bereaved. In this way we'd be able to get new jobs without difficulty.
Hence, our rote response to the reporters. Hence our attendance at the funeral.
Hence our moving laterally, in some cases vertically.
And the world can continue to think that a Great Man had passed.